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President Obama in Oslo on Human Rights Day

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Daniel Maree and Amanda Hsiao from the Enough Project contributed to this post.

In his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in Oslo, Norway today, President Obama expounded upon the justifications for war and highlighted the pressing human rights crises in Sudan and Congo, saying, notably, that consequences must follow:

When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma -- there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

Obama argued that military force can be justified to prevent widespread slaughter and civilian suffering, echoing the principles behind the R2P doctrine, otherwise known as the Responsibility to Protect:

More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region. I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later.

As I wrote back in October, with the added luster of the Nobel, peace activists hope that President Obama will wade more deeply into resolving the situation in both Sudan and Congo, some of the deadliest conflicts on the planet and the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or a girl due to rampant sexual violence.

As President Obama proclaimed:

Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure -- and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

These words are reminiscent of the Obama that campaigned last November, who promised to make the situation in Sudan a top priority. It is time for the President to implement his administration's own benchmark-based policy. Until all preconditions for free and fair elections in 2010 are met, the international community, led by the United States, should suspend all electoral assistance to Sudan. In Congo, the new Nobel Laureate could help catalyze efforts to end the trade in conflict minerals, helping to lay the foundation for peace in much the same way ending the blood diamonds trade helped end the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola.

As the world celebrates Human Rights Day today, it is hard to conceive of a more propitious time for President Obama to act on his words.

John Prendergast is Co-Founder of Enough, the anti-genocide project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.